President Jean Floten is leaving the local college to take a position as Chancellor of Western Governors University Washington, a new and online only competency-based university.
The Bellevue College Board of Trustees plans to appoint an interim president and to launch a national search for a new president, according to a press release.
Floten said in a news release by WGU Washington, which was started by the legislature in April, the school will offer access to higher education to more people, which she said reflected closely her goals as an educator.
“I am committed to higher education because it has the power to improve lives and livelihoods WGU Washington gives more Washington students access to a high-quality, affordable education.,” Floten said.
Floten has been at Bellevue College since 1989, the longest-serving of Bellevue College’s seven presidents since its establishment in 1966. Floten was at the helm when the school made the transition from Bellevue Community College to Bellevue College in 2009, after the school stated offering bachelor degrees.
"Bellevue College has been blessed with Jean Floten’s guidance for the last 23 years," said Vijay Vashee, chair of the Bellevue College Board of Trustees in a prepared statement. "Major impact has been felt ranging from early learning to various areas in the computing field. Her departure is a clear loss for the college. Fortunately the State will still benefit from her presence."
Before taking the helm at Bellevue College, Floten served a stint at Edmonds Community College in Lynwood, including as its as executive vice president.
Bellevue college now serves about 39,000 students annually in its bachelor and associate degree programs, up from about 20,000 at the start of Floten’s tenure. Bellevue College has more than doubled its classroom infrastructure at its main campus, and recently opened a new North Campus for its continuing education programs.
Floten serves on the Educational Testing Service national advisory board, and has been a member of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Key Bank Advisory Board, and has been recognized for her leadership on technology education, funding, innovations in teaching, diversity, student access and other education issues.
Robert Mendenhall, president of WGU Washington, said that Floten’s history within the community college system will serve WGU Washington well as it seeks to complement the offerings of the state’s community colleges.
WGU Washington, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Western Governors University, was established by the legislature just last month, on April 22, and begins its first classes on July 1. Western Governors University was as an initiative of the Western Governors Association, which incorporated WGU as a private, non-profit university in 1997, began accepting students in 1999, and operates as a nationally accredited online university with more than 50 degrees available and about 23,000 students nationwide.
The cost of WGU Washington is about $6,000 dollars a year for tuition. In comparison, Fall, Winter and Spring quarters at the University of Washington was $8,701* in the 2010-11 year. As opposed to a traditional college, WGU Students will be able to begin classes at the beginning of any month, and pay for a 6-month term rather than the number of credits they take, the school says. WGU Washington says the school will be self-supporting and will not receive state dollars to operate.
WGU Washington has an advisory board that includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and AT&T, among others.
WGU Washington will celebrate its launch and the new university's partnership with the state's community colleges Thursday, May 26, at Seattle Central Community College's Broadway Performance Hall, at 10 a.m., including remarks by Floten and other dignitaries at 9:30 a.m.
*Due to an editor's error, the University of Washington 2010-11 tuition in the first version of this story was incorrect.